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Duma Travel: Themba Mthombeni

Seized by a desire to travel a new road, Themba Mthombeni left a well paid corporate job to forge his own path in the travel industry.

Juliet Pitman

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Themba Mthombeni

When technological advances threaten a sector, some people see only challenges. Others, like Themba Mthombeni, see opportunities. The founder of Duma Travel, Mthombeni got into the travel agency business when everyone else was getting out. In 2002, the rise of Internet bookings meant travel agents were becoming redundant as increasing numbers of travellers booked their own airline tickets, transfers and accommodation online.

Seeing a gap

“Travel agents had become nothing more than booking clerks and it was clear they needed to offer additional value to their clients if they wanted to survive. I realised that few travel companies were offering strategic services, and I immediately saw a gap to start an agency that leveraged this opportunity,” he says. That was when he left a comfortable job as HR director of De Beers to start Duma Travel. From his own corporate experience and time spent in business consulting, Mthombeni knew that travel is often the second highest corporate expense item after human resources costs. “Previously travel wasn’t seen as a strategic issue, but as travel costs have soared, so the need has arisen for companies to have travel policies in place and to implement cost reduction strategies. Duma Travel was formed specifically for this purpose – we’re a travel partner to corporate organisations and we provide them with the tools to manage travel needs at a strategic level,” he explains.

Redefining an industry

The company offers a range of services including travel audits, assistance in crafting travel policies, research into best practices and how to change traveller behaviour, and change management strategies to ensure policies are implemented properly and rigorously.
“When a company spends tens to hundreds of millions of rands on travel, they want to know where their money is going, and how to reduce the amount they pay out. We help them do that,” Mthombeni says. In redefining the role of a travel agent, Duma Travel has attracted some big name clients who recognise the value it has to offer. They include Old Mutual, PetroSA, the City of Cape Town, and the departments of Home Affairs and Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

Getting to growth

But it hasn’t always been easy. Looking back on the road he has walked to get Duma Travel to where it is today, Mthombeni says, “Initially, it was a big adjustment to move from a job that had status and comfort, to being a very lonely single operator in a small office.”
He’d invested his own savings in the company, and while he had capital to live off in the early stages, he deliberately downgraded his lifestyle. “I sold my BMW and bought myself an Uno – it’s a small thing but it helped from a psychological point of view. It made me hungry to make a success of things,” he says. “It also made me appreciate small triumphs. I still remember getting excited about my first booking which was for two local airline tickets.” Today the company employs 70 people and has six offices around the country.

Looking ahead

It’s success of which Mthombeni is justifiably proud but it hasn’t dulled his appetite or ambition. “My five-year vision is to be in the top five travel management companies in the country, which implies sales of around R1,5 billion,” he says. He plans to get there by acquiring small businesses in the geographical areas where the company wants to grow its footprint, and this year he will be launching travel incentive extensions to the Duma Travel brand. “We also have plans to launch a corporate conference management division – both of these extensions overlap with our existing core business but will allow us to diversify our offering,” he adds. “Ultimately we want to be a one-stop shop for corporate travel. I have every confidence that we will achieve our goals.” Having once found himself off the beaten track, Mthombeni is now well positioned to open new frontiers in his sector.

Duma Travel
Player Themba Mthombeni
Est.: 2002
Contact: +27 11 326 4009,
+27 83 277 3439
www.dumatravel.co.za

Juliet Pitman is a features writer at Entrepreneur Magazine.

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25 Of The Most Successful Business Ideas In South Africa

Find out who’s making waves in numerous industries and how they managed to differentiate themselves in local and international industries.

Nicole Crampton

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“Disruption is all about risk-taking, trusting your intuition, and rejecting the way things are supposed to be. Disruption goes way beyond advertising, it forces you to think about where you want your brand to go and how to get there,” says Richard Branson.

South Africa has its fair share of innovative and disruptive businesses taking both local and international industries by storm. From cutting edge space technology to reimagined logistics, and innovative business models, here are 25 of the most successful business ideas in South Africa:

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Colin Timmis Says ‘Position Yourself For Success By Starting With The Numbers’

People pay first who they feel pressure from, so people will pay you when they feel pressure from you.

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Entrepreneur Colin Timmis founded South Africa’s first cloud accounting practice in 2011, Real Time Accounting. Then, a few years after being appointed as South Africa’s first Xero partner Colin became Xero Country Manager South Africa. Xero is the emerging global leader of online accounting software that connects small businesses to their advisors and other services.

Related: Pat Pillai On How He’s Helped Over 5000 Entrepreneurs Using 3 Key Steps

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Two 20 Year Olds Reshape Entrepreneur Landscape With New Social Investment Platform

The Merge vision is to become the ‘go to’, digital meeting place for entrepreneurs and investors, and to truly make a difference in the world.

Merge Connect

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Vital Stats

It’s no secret that finding the right investor for your venture is a challenge that most entrepreneurs face. The current process of finding investment is one that is outdated, and limits entrepreneurs due to a lack of time, and network that is needed to find the right investor. But, this doesn’t have to be the case in today’s digital society, says Zander Matthee and Brandon Bate, co-founders of Merge.

“By making the Internet the middleman, we are able to connect with each other much simpler and faster than before” was Zander’s response. “We have taken advantage of this, and have created a digital meeting place for entrepreneurs and investors” added Brandon.

Merge is a social platform that connects entrepreneurs and investors. It aims to simplify, refine and accelerate the process of finding investment for entrepreneurs, and the process of finding investment opportunities for investors. From idea to developed, the platform allows entrepreneurs to present a brief outline of their venture to a network of all investor types. While doing this, entrepreneurs are able to browse through, and connect with investor profiles that suit their requirements.

Related: 8 Codes Of Success That Helped Priven Reddy of Kagiso Interactive Media Achieve A Networth Of Over R4 Billion

From Private Investors to Venture Capital, and everything in between, Merge allows all investor types to join. Investors have the opportunity to personalise their feed to suit their investment preferences, and will be able to connect with innovative businesses – that are looking for investment – at their fingertips. Only once there is a mutual interest in each other, are users able to enter a secure private chat where they can discuss further and share documents under the protection of a digital NDA.

The two boys became good friends during their time in high school at St Stithians Boys College. However, it was only in their last year, 2016, that they decided to pursue their dreams and create the platform. They didn’t know how to code, so rather ironically, they needed some form of investment to get the platform off the ground.

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“We knew we had a mountain to climb, but we believed in our vision and that we were really trying to make a difference, and if we could get others to see that, they would be onboard.” said Zander.

Related: Lessons From The Rich And Famous: Manage Your Money Like Oprah To Avoid Going Into Debt Like Nicholas Cage

Chris Peters is one of these individuals that bought into their vision, and became Merge’s first investor. As a successful entrepreneur and part time investor , Chris saw how much value the platform could bring to all entrepreneurs and investors alike. His marketing and strategic background gave him insight into how Merge could play a vital role in a lucrative space, Brand involvement.

“Entrepreneurship and SME development are two key factors that drive economic growth in developing countries like South Africa. That is why brands are currently getting involved, and looking to support entrepreneurs through various means. We have built a platform that allows these brands to successfully market, and execute on the programmes they have created to assist entrepreneurs.” said Chris

Merge was created to assist all entrepreneurs and investors in finding exactly what they are looking for, regardless of age, race, sex, financial position or social status. That is why anybody can sign-up as an entrepreneur. As long as you are determined and willing to work for your dreams. For too long has the investor space been seen as an “elite club for the select few”, and Merge is here to change that. Whether you’ve gotten your bonus at the end of the year and looking for new investment opportunities, or are an active investor, you can sign-up. Whether you’re currently working, or a retired industry leader, you can join as a mentor.

Their vision is to become the ‘go to’, digital meeting place for entrepreneurs and investors, and to truly make a difference in the world.

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